A little more than 25 years ago, my parents welcomed into the world a chunky, pale baby ginger. I’m surprised they didn’t sue the hospital or the OB, making them send me back to the dark, desolate place from whence gingers hale: Western Europe. Perhaps it was the fact that my mom was also an auburn and that my older sister, with her gorgeous strawberry blonde curls, also verged on ginger-vitis, but whatever the reason, they added me to their family with grace and acceptance. My poor dad and brother, with their black hair and brown eyes must’ve begun to feel outnumbered next to us.
The females in my family also share another trait indicative of the soulless isles: what I have come to call sea-eyes. I call them that because saying I have sea-eyes is a lot more poetic than saying that my eyes are mood stones or chameleons. For much of my life, they alternated between deep blue, green, grey, and occasionally turquoise, but for the time being they seem to have settled on algae green. In fact, I think a particularly mean-spirited poet might describe them as two fetid pools of water where no fish may live for lack of oxygen. He’d probably also call me four-eyed.
Occasionally, depending on how much sun I’ve had, I can pass for non-ginger. In fact, in the winter, my hair turned almost brown. However, one thing I couldn’t hide was my skin. My wonderful ancestors bequeathed me with skin that looks like a half-empty bottle of Elmer’s School Glue. You can see every vein and major artery, the opalescent lumps of fat on my belly and hips and, on a bright day, the brilliant glow of my skeleton. Added to all this clearness are freckles, which make me look as though I’ve just been splashed by a puddle on a dirt road. Finish that off with perpetual dark circles under my eyes (caused by delicate arteries bursting under the skin according to my doctor). In the winter, I’m sure people wonder if I am the victim of some sort of horrible medical problem. I’m obviously not an albino, but I’m close. I donate my body to medicine, and they wouldn’t even have to cut me open to see what makes me tick.
As you can imagine, life without a soul is difficult. While I used to fear my difference and let it cause me pain when other kids teased me, now I just embrace it. Who cares if most of my aunts thought I was as dirty as that one kid from Peanuts? Who cares if I’ve had more futile spit baths as those aunts try to wipe a freckle off my cheek than anyone needs? It probably gave me a stronger immune system.
I started dying my hair around the 9th grade. Ironically, I wanted it to be more red. Well, more auburn. Now that I’m out of school, I’m becoming acquainted with another aspect of gingerism. My hair is going prematurely white. For a while, that scared me, and I upped the number of times a year I colored my hair. The more often I dye your hair, the more brown it becomes. But now those white hairs appear to be congregating in one spot in the top of my head, and I think I can handle a white streak. For the first time in a long time, I’m embracing my true hair color, and I’m nervous. What if I really have grown out of my ginger?
All these soulless jokes about gingers make me laugh. If they are right, then I guess I needn’t worry about heaven or hell. I guess that means I should be an atheist by default. I should definitely move out of New Mexico though. Overcast days are my favorite because there’s less danger of spontaneous combustion. Hot days are as close to hell as I ever hope to get. I blister after two hours out in the sun WITH sunblock.
But, lest this sound like a whiny post, I love my thick, unruly ginger mane. It reminds me of my ancestors who fought the king, knowing full well their choices were to win or die. Turns out, England offered leave Scotland as a choice too in the end. I’m a remnant of a culture pushed to the outer islands and less-tenable locations, who somehow learned to thrive, and then scare the shit out of the Romans by fighting naked and blue. Never mind that my hair tends to always look as if it’s blowing in the wind; that’s just the Gulf Stream. The remnants of hungry but proud Irish ancestors and fierce Scots. In the end, if that means I don’t have a soul, well, maybe it also means I’m immortal.
But let’s conclude with something more serious. Gingers are expected to be extinct in 100 years. Save the gingers.